SDG Watch Europe Steering Group statement on war and conflicts

By SDG Watch Europe Steering Group

Stop the war in Ukraine

“This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. […] We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. ”  

These almost poetic words, signed by all UN member states, are found at the beginning of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. Yet, the adoption of the SDGs in 2015 and the optimism accompanying their negotiation seem like a lifetime ago. The realisation of the most progressive international policies since the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has become even less likely today. 

The attack on Ukraine by the Russian army and the war on a sovereign European country marks an unacceptable breach of international law. We sharply condemn the inexcusable attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and demand an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops. We call on third parties to prevent a further military escalation of the conflict and help in facilitating peace negotiations.  

The war needs to stop immediately

We stand in solidarity with all people living in Ukraine and all those affected by the conflict. The right to refuge and asylum of all people regardless of nationalities, genders, sexual orientation, ethnicities, race and religion must be respected and facilitated. We call on all parties to ensure safe passage for all affected by the attacks.

All people have a right to live in peace and democracy, free from repression and dictatorship. We need to strengthen and support civil society everywhere and fight shrinking spaces for civil society, independent media and other democratic stakeholders of society. We stand with all those in Russia and other parts of the world who resist the war, raise their voices for peace and face repression and arrest.

We also see an unbearable unjust treatment of refugees of other crises and conflicts who arrive in Europe. We call on the EU and the EU governments to treat all people looking for safe harbour in the same way. Only the consistent enforcement of international law at Europe’s borders, safe and regular pathways, a European sea rescue system and the solidary reception of all people seeking protection within the EU can end the suffering and death at Europe’s borders. 

All human rights violations in and by the EU, such as push-backs, must stop immediately

The war in Ukraine casts a dark shadow over our common goal to make the world a better place. We can see its effects in increased military spending, rising energy and food prices propositions to prolong coal use, investment in fossil fuel exploration in and around Europe, LNG terminals, or nuclear energy. All this will disproportionately affect poor people in Europe and the Global South. 

This war underlines the urgent need to move quickly towards a green and just transition. 

Only systemic change can ensure that our energy systems are self-sufficient and sustainable. Europe must remain committed to its bold vision for climate neutrality, not least because the biggest impacts of the climate crisis are already borne by the Global South and by those who are least responsible. 

The war in Ukraine, the overthrow of the Afghan government by the Taliban, the ongoing wars and conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar and civil unrest in many other regions, the effects of the COVID-pandemic with more than six million deaths globally, the lack of real vaccine justice and a comprehensive TRIPS waiver, the rising number of people living in hunger and poverty, the growing climate, biodiversity and resource crises – they all collectively and individually threaten universal peace, freedom from the tyranny of poverty and a secure and healthy planet. 

The EU and the European countries have a responsibility to guarantee the world described in the 2030 Agenda. 

The SDGs are no mere collection of ideas. They compose internationally negotiated policies that governments have agreed to implement and fulfil—the SDGs show what our governments think is possible. We cannot let them fall back on their commitments! 

This war and whatever may follow after it must not lead to a backlash of the old economy and old way of thinking. Europe’s reaction to the war must not reaffirm the ways of the fossil fuel era. It must not lead to even more pressure on people already affected by crisis and poverty. It must not strengthen authoritarian, top-down solutions to conflict.

Europe must opt for a socially and global just transition of our economies that builds a better society for all people in Europe and worldwide. The solutions remain the same as before. 

We call on the EU to listen to civil society and science to combat all crises and conflicts with progressive policies.

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